“Interesting lives make for amazing stories!”, The Next Level host Kevin Hart says to Tacarra Williams just before she heads up for her life-changing set on his Comedy Central show. And as comedic backgrounds go, Tacarra’s is pretty unusual. Prodded into a standup set after a rough breakup, she has since embraced the funny in difficult times – including the difficult times she helps others through as a teacher and life coach in LA’s jail system. “Humor is everywhere!” she shared brightly in a chat prior to her episode’s premiere. “We’re either gonna laugh about it, or we’re gonna be sad about it. And I’ve got no time to be sad!”
During her twenty minute set, Williams holds the audience’s rapt attention as she tells stories about prisoners who she had to win over and prisoners who were all about her (“you know, cuz I’m cute,” she quipped to a crowd in agreement), as well as the challenges of doing this work while raising three kids. And in it, she shows a presence that is wholly ready for the next level of fame the show hopes to elevate her to.
“I didn’t even realize I was doing it!,” Williams says of her natural tendency to find the funny in her challenging, but ultimately rewarding work. Her humor was definitely noticed by her students, and another teacher pulled her aside one day to ask why she’d been hearing so much about this funny teacher they had. She didn’t take that humor to the stage right away, though. But once she did, she found audiences couldn’t get enough:
“When I start, people always want more. They always want to know, ‘so what do you do in this situation? What do you do in that situation?’ So then I said, if they’re calling for this, let me give it to them. And that’s when I started really paying attention to things that go on at work and how to make it funny. You know, it works onstage.”
That ability to keep things funny, even when they’re hard, is what she credits her appearance on The Next Level to. Her way of putting it? “Being the oddball, being myself, and just continuously being funny.”
It might feel gauche to ask a comedian whose national television debut hasn’t aired yet “so what’s next?”, but I simply couldn’t resist. Luckily for me, Williams had two answers at the ready. The first, an hour special, to be ready a year from now. The second came to mind as she was telling me more about her experiences at work: she’s written several episodes of a prospective TV show inspired by her comedy. We have lots of shows that show us what life in prison is like, and some are even funny. But she notes, “it’s always from a detective’s perspective. An inmate’s perspective. A deputy’s perspective. It’s never from a teacher’s perspective. A female teacher going into a male jail just, you know, figuring it out.” And that difference of perspective is about more than just highlighting different eyes. In Williams’ estimation, her story could change the perception of how we view those in the prison system.
“There’s so much good that happens in jail, and people don’t know. They only know the bad. These guys get high school diplomas, they take care of parenting and anger management. A lot of good goes on, and we focus on the bad. We need to focus on some of the good that actually happens.” Williams has great, engaging stories at the ready for anyone willing to produce them, and as she tells them – both on the special and over the phone – it’s easy to see how entertaining such a show could be. In the meantime, her Next Level appearance is a clear window into the bright future that surely awaits her.
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Want to take your knowledge of Tacarra to the next level? She hosts Chocolate Sundaes at Laugh Factory Sunset on Sunday nights at 10pm- the show’s first female host in 20 years. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and at tacarracomedian.com.